Finding balance in yoga, our diet, our life

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

I keep telling myself I’m going to do yoga. But I never make the time to go — usually because I’m too busy or I figure it’s easier to go for a run instead. I’m reading a book, though, that has made me want to start going to yoga again, if for no other reason than to carve out time to do something for myself that I enjoy. I love running, but I need a little variety.

On the surface, Claire Dederer’s “Poser” is about yoga. But once you start reading it, you realize it’s about much more than that. It’s about Dederer’s attempt to figure out what makes a good friend, wife and mother. It’s about fear, balance and joy.

As her practice of yoga deepens, Dederer starts thinking more deeply about her own life and the people in it. One of my favorite chapters in the book is “Vinyasa” because it talks about her relationship with food. I was struck by one passage in particular because it reminded me that even if we don’t struggle with disordered eating, many of us feel the need to be in control of what we eat — and what our kids eat:

“It only stands to reason that certain people with issues about food would seek a cooperative elementary school. Because many people who chose the co-op chose it for the same reason I did: fear. Everyone seemed driven by this big, wobbly, jellylike terror that something was going to hurt their kids. Social anthropologists have theorized that this worry stems from the small size of the modern family; we have more invested in each kid and don’t have extras to spare. At any rate, this endemic fear has other names, like love and concern. And these people’s concerns for their children centered around food.

For some kids, this was a very clear-cut deal: They had bad allergies or serious health issues. Lucas had severe celiac disease and truly could not ingest any wheat. Kendra was fatally allergic to peanuts. Then there were the nonmedical cases that were still at least rational: Serena and Porter came from a vegetarian family and needed help learning how to identify and pass up dishes with meat in them.

Then things started to slide down a slope that was as slick as soy yogurt on a banana. There were parents who were against sugar. Parents who were against trading lunches. Parents who were against “kid food.” Parents who disliked food as a reward. Parents who shunned food with “chemicals” in it. All these things need to be discussed.

From there, it got even more confusing. Many of these preferences were expressed as medical necessity. Parent A’s decision to limit the dairy products in their household became her child’s “dairy allergy. Parent B insisted that Grayson was allergic to wheat: why then did we sometimes see Ritz crackers packed in Grayson’s lunch box? The mom who hated chemicals smoked cigarettes and included candy in her kid’s lunch.

How did I know this? We were all there. We were the kind of good parents who didn’t want to miss a minute of anything. Wheat and lunch trading and dairy allergies: These were the topics of the day.”

Sometimes we get too caught up worrying about food when we don’t need to. (Story of my life.) For as much as we want to try to be healthy, though, we can’t take all the fun out of food. We have to find a balance.

That word “balance” kept popping up in Dederer’s book. It seemed the more she found her balance (literally) in yoga class, the more stability she found in life. Her writing’s enough to convince me to start doing some child poses and downward dogs again. Who knows, maybe it will make me find more balance in my own life.